Imagine that you and a friend are having a quiet dinner in a nice restaurant in Austin, the capital of Texas. Austin is one of America's trendiest cities, thanks to its lively music, academic, and high-tech scenes.
At a nearby table, a large group has been cheerfully celebrating the birthday of someone named Linda, who looks vaguely familiar.
As those guests rise to leave, chaos suddenly erupts! Three photographers and an aggressive news reporter barge in, rush Linda's table, and pepper her with flashes and loud questions!
No pictures! Leave her alone! scream her companions, as they throw up their hands and hustle her out the door. But the paparazzi are in hot pursuit, and you and others find yourselves reaching for your own pocket cameras to record this amazing scene. Someone even runs after Linda, hoping to get her autograph.
Only Linda is not a famous person. And the paparazzi are not tabloid photographers and obnoxious journalists.
It was all a show, a gag – sort of guerrilla theater. Linda's husband and friends had pooled their money – $250 or more – to surprise Linda and have great fun. The amount can run as high as $1,500 if fake bodyguards and a limousine are employed.
The whole, bizarre experience is the brainchild of Tania Cowher, a commercial and advertising photographer, who formed the Celeb-4-a-Day service and recruited her friends to play the paparazzi. Things have gone so well that Celeb-4-a-Day has expanded to Los Angeles and San Francisco, cities where celebrity mob scenes are common.
As for the Lindas in these wild dramas, they get the photos taken by the phony paparazzi, plus a celebrity-style magazine cover of the event. And, of course, laughs for many years.